The International Blues Challenge represents the worldwide search for Blues bands and solo/duo acts who are ready to perform on an international stage, but they just need a big break. This year's 34th annual event took place Jan. 16-20 on famous Beale Street in Memphis, Tenn.
A total of 243 bands traveled from around the world to participate in the five-day competition, where they got to play in one of nine different Memphis venues.
This year, a musician from Memphis, originally from Kankakee, made the list of winners. Fuzzy Jeffries and the Kings of Memphis came in second place in the band category.
"We had a lot of fun doing it," said Jeffries, when contacted by the Daily Journal. Fuzzy Jeffries and the Kings of Memphis have been playing together for 25 years.
"It's just what we do. It's second nature to us now," he said.
Jeffries and his band were no strangers to the challenge. This was their second time competing.
"It was another day at the office for us, but we had a lot of fun doing it," Jeffries said. "It was a great fellowship, and we met a lot of new people from around the world. It was a great way for us to represent Memphis."
Given the nickname "Fuzzy," Kevin Jeffries, 60, and the Kings of Memphis won The Memphis Blues Challenge in 2012 and 2014, and they played the Merchant Street Music Festival in 2013 and the KVPD BBQ Fest in 2014.
Jeffries found his way from Kankakee to Memphis 25 years ago after giving way to change in his life to do the thing he loved — performing music.
"I had ties in Memphis, musically," Jeffries said. "Sometimes, you need to move on in order to better what you're trying to do. Memphis is one of the biggest music cities in the world." Memphis is home base for the band.
Jeffries started out playing in bands in Kankakee. He started in a band called Jeffries Junction from age 16 to 19, and later played in a band called Live, along with Gary Reynolds, who won the first Lifetime Achievement Award at Kankakee's first Area Music Awards in 2012.
Throughout his early career, Jeffries has performed with The Staple Singers, Bobby Rush and Willie Mitchell, a trumpeter and bandleader who also ran Royal Studios in Memphis who produced many of Al Green's albums.
Now, Jeffries plays along with a five-piece band that, thanks to their second-place win in the competition, will stay even busier than before.
"They're gonna load us up with a lot of work for the upcoming music festival season," said Jeffries. "We've always been booked, so this just adds more fuel to the fire."
Fuzzy Jeffries and the Kings of Memphis will play at this year's Merchant Street Music Festival.
Jan 30, 2018